Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
However, the new proposal submitted to the Brazilian Government in 2009 still
awaits approval by the Senate to be signed into law. Once approved, the document
would help implement in practice the UN DRIP. Mariano Tupã-Mirim, a Guarani
health agent at the Itaóca Village in southern São Paulo state, put it this way in a
letter addressed to me in December 2009:
Hopefully, the Estatuto will soon be approved. Our people are really learning
to live documented so we can follow all the laws. We put signs up all around
our land so people know to respect. This is very good. I continue studying the
medicinal plants to help the children and the community.... I made five new
maps with all the plants, and I want to include them in the Livro de Mapas de
São Paulo . I never thought I was good at mathematics, but I know everything
about maps! How to read maps, how to draw maps, how to understand maps
from other parts of the world. And my plants, where they grow and where
our people can find them, even if today they have to travel far away. This is
very beautiful! I understand now what Luiz Karaí [the teacher and headman
of his village present at the workshop in 1999] says about mathematics being
important for the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples.
Mathematics, Justice, and Respect for Human Rights
The maps and narratives, hand drawings, and photographs shown above bring together
powerful ideas about the worldviews, and in particular the mathematical knowledges
of the Guarani, Terena, Kaingang, and Pankararu Peoples in São Paulo, southern
Brazil. It became crystal clear that in order to teach mathematics or “talk numbers,”
one needs to contextualize mathematics within a broader social and historical situation
for it to make sense as a product of human creation. Mathema denotes knowledge,
understanding, and explanation, while tic comes from techne , the same root of art
or technique. Thus, ethnomathematics, or mathematics purely speaking, is the art
or technique of explaining, knowing, or understanding in various cultural contexts
(D'Ambrosio 1990). In addition, most non-Indigenous workshop participants
were startled when they found out that most Indigenous persons in the state of São
Paulo - the richest in the country - live in urban and suburban favelas , working as
cheap peons and facing extreme poverty with less than US $ 1 dollar a day.
When teacher Ilson Iaiati ended his statement presented above on Kaingang
mathematical knowledge, the connection he established between nudity,
ignorance, and being “Indian” in southern Brazil indicates very clearly the
prevailing lack of respect for and deep ignorance about Indigenous cultures,
mathematics included. Moreover, Ilson became “very emotional” in front of
60 other mathematics teachers after he realized the strong relationship between
oppression and education.
Theoretically speaking, Ilson recognized the important role that thoughts, emotions,
and actions play in the production of knowledge, mathematical or not. Indigenous
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